Distillery/Brand: Port Charlotte | Region: Islay | ABV: 59.5% | Color: Pale Gold
Nose: 23 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 89
I’m a huge fan of the Port Charlotte series from Bruichladdich. It is the brainchild of the legendary Master Distiller Jim Mcewan and is an experiment in cask exploration.
Port Charlotte sits in between the mildly or non-peated standard range and the highly peated Octomores. The PC spirit was laid soon after the distillery was re-opened thanks to the foresight of independent bottlers Murray McDavid. Jim Mcewan, who had worked at Bowmore since he was 15, was hired as Master Distiller and Production Director.
Under his guidance the PC series was born in 2001. The aim was to release a cask strength whisky every year from the time it reached five years of age. And so PC5 was the first in the series.
Now up to 11 the PC range has accumulated quite a following and for good reason too. No chill filtration, artificial coloring and served at cask strength this is a throwback to the days when there was no wifi and whiskies were hand made.
The PC 11 is titled Eòrna Na h-Alba which is Gaelic for Scottish Barley. Yes, you guessed it, all barley used in the making is Scottish. The spirit has been matured in Oloroso sherry butts and walks a lovely line between sherry sweetness and Islay flavors.
My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at 59.5%
Nose: Quite salty. Lots of coastal sea air. Lemon. Peat. Hint of smoke. A little sour. Wet wood. Black peppers. Macaroon cake. Coconut. Caramel. Takes time for the nose to adjust. The fumes are super strong. A couple of drops of water opens it up quite nicely. What’s not to like?
Palate: Smoke. Chocolate. Coffee beans. Peat. White pepper. Black peppers. Fish oil. Classic Islay flavors working well with the sweetness of the Oloroso. Adding a couple of drops makes it more palatable and creamier. Coffee comes out stronger as does the oak.
Finish: Cold cuts. White pepper. Oak. Chocolate.
This is not a beginners whisky by any standards due to the high strength and fairly strong peat levels. Takes very well to water, though. Can’t wait for the PC 12!
Distillery/Brand: AnCnoc | Region: Highland | ABV: 46% | Color: Pale Straw
Nose: 23 | Taste: 24 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 93
Knockdhu opened it’s doors to the general public in the small village of Knock in Aberdeenshire thanks to the foresight of one Mr John Morisson. The year was 1892 and when he saw the peat lands surrounding Knock estate and an abundance of spring water his first thought was distillery!
One of the ‘younger’ distilleries Knockdhu lies on the edge of Speyside but is considered a Highland distillery. They also produce a strangely difficult to pronounce expression by the name of AnCnoc (a-knock) named after the nearby Knock hill – as if Knockdhu wasn’t hard enough.
While generally churning out un-peated spirits there are a few months of the year when they produce a peated distillate. And that is what has been packaged as a range of four different whiskies each differentiated by it’s peat strength and, impossible to remember, peat digging tool names.
I give you Flaughter, Rutter, Tushkar and Cutter. All tools used in the excavation of peat.
The one I have in my hand at the moment is called Rutter (which is basically a spade, guys, but I think Rutter sounded more romantic. Imagine drinking a Spade.) and has been peated to 11 parts per million or 11PPM.
While I can go on about the marketing choices that went in coming up with this theme I have to admit that this is a mighty fine single malt.
Matured in American Oak Hogshead this is a No Age Statement (WHY?????) and bottled at 46%. My sample is from a brand new bottle.
Nose: Mild peat. Citrus. Banana. Toffee. Vanilla pudding. Strawberries. Wild flowers. Almonds. Cashew nuts. Sponge cake. Jute rope. Cardboard. Burnt bread crust. Perfumed peach. It’s lovely and understated. The mild peat works quite remarkably with all the sweetness.
Palate: Light peat. Ash. Pudding. Vanilla. Mild spices. Lots of fruits. Green apples. Pineapples. Touch of leather. And, seriously, what an insanely perfect body! Like soft velvet. Not a jagged edge in sight. Wonderfully rounded with the ability to effortlessly cascade over your entire palate.
Finish: Peat. Mild spice. Touch of fruit.
This is quite a masterful act in balance and understatement. I love whiskies like these. Young and confident with a maturity beyond the obvious. This reminded me of the 2014 Ardbeg Kildalton (which I spoke very highly of). The only difference is that the Ardbeg is four times the price.
If you want someone to appreciate the finer points of a peated whisky without overwhelming them then this is the dram to do it with.
Distillery/Brand: Kilchoman | Region: Islay | ABV: 46% | Color: Sunlight
Nose: 23 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 90
I’ve just got back from a very interesting Japanese whisky tasting event. Some good classic Japanese whiskies (Nikka from the Barrel, Hakushu 12, Yamazaki 18, to name a few) coupled with some delicious food made for an extremely satisfying evening.
But I decided to leave early and come back home to the Kilchoman Machir Bay as my last expression of the evening.
Kilchoman and I have a history. Three years ago I tasted a couple of young releases in the presence of Anthony Wills (founder of said distillery) and it was all I could do to prevent my self from spitting the liquid back out in the glass.
This was followed by a three year program on Kilchoman abstinence which was eventually broken by the Kilchoman 2013 Small Batch Release finished in Oloroso sherry casks.
I was floored. What an absolutely amazing whisky.
Anthony Wills here is another apology from me for writing you off.
This got me interested in other, newer, Kilchoman releases and when I heard good things about the Machir Bay I just had to get my self one of their dumpy bottles.
Machir Bay 2014 is a vatting of 5 and 6 year old ex-bourbon barrels and Oloroso sherry butts and is bottled at 46% ABV
Nose: Very sweet peat. Sugar cane. White wine. Chardonay. Very tart. Crisp. Fresh white oak. Fennel. Lime. Raspberry. Cumin. Cedar plank. Vanilla. Let it breathe and white dough comes wafting through. Finally pineapples. White grapes. A very fresh and lovely nose.
Palate: Very smooth. Extremely smooth to drink. Coffee. Apricots. Pears. Peat. White grape. Black peppers. Macaroon cake. Cumin seeds. Very palatable.
Finish: Smooth. Peat. Mint. Oily. Cumin. White melon lozenge.
This is another extremely accomplished spirit from Kilchoman. Wonderfully smooth and completely thought through.
This particular expression was third in line at a Wemyss tasting I attended recently. An interesting independent bottler which goes after a particular flavor profile rather than the other way around. And made all the more interesting thanks to the great Charles Maclean at it’s nosing helm.
Nose: The peaty nose has a lot of red apple sweetness sitting on a bed of oaky maple syrup. A quick breath and there is nutmeg and clove in the spice department. Interesting. Pleasant.
Palate: Sweet on the palate too, with it’s clove infused dark chocolate and purple fruits.
Finish: Nice, long cinnamon finish.
Magnificent? No. Pleasantly forgettable? Sure.
Did the Irish invent whisky? I don’t really know for sure. But I do know they’re pretty good at this game and this peated Connemara is an example of that.
The delicate honey and sugarcane nose is quite fresh and wafts lazily over the smoky peat on the bottom. Sway it gently and up comes a zing of bright lemon. Very playful.
You know the distiller has done his job when the nose is in sync with the delivery. The honey, sugarcane and lemon on the palate are testament to that!
The minty medium finish is a touch on the shorter side but over all this is quite a pleasant dram.